New malaria vaccine halves risk of infection

A mother and child sit under a mosquito net in Tanzania, one of the countries where the pioneering RTS,S vaccine was tested.


Tony Karumba

More than 15,000 children in seven African countries took part in the clinical trial of the experimental RTS,S vaccine, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday. All children were aged between either 6-12 weeks, or 5-17 months.

One year after the vaccine was adminstered, researchers reported roughly half the number of cases of malaria among children in the older age group, compared to a control group that was given vaccines against other diseases.

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Results for the younger age group are expected by the end of 2012, according to the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which developed the vaccine in partnership with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

GSK chief executive Andrew Witty said:

"These data bring us to the cusp of having the world's first malaria vaccine, which has the potential to significantly improve the outlook for children living in malaria endemic regions across Africa. "

RTS,S is the result of 25 years of research, the Guardian reports.

If the vaccine is approved, GSK has pledged to sell it for only a little more than cost-price.

One other malaria vaccine, MSP3, is currently being tested, according to the BBC. A recent small-scale trial in Burkina Faso showed high levels of protection among infants.

Malaria currently causes an estimated 800,000 deaths each year, mainly among young children.

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